January 17, 2020

Joyful Witness / Kimberly Pohovey

No matter the situation, there’s a saint for that!

Kimberly PohoveyYears ago, I walked into my then-parish on New Year’s Eve and was greeted at the door by a parishioner asking me to pick one of the small pieces of paper in her basket. Not familiar with the tradition, I asked for further explanation. Apparently on the verge of the new year, parishioners picked a saint. The idea was to randomly select a saint, learn more about he or she, and then pray for this saint’s intervention throughout the coming year.

Recalling the tradition, I decided to adopt a saint for 2020. Where else to turn in modern times for a saint but the Internet? I visited the Saints Name Generator website (saintsnamegenerator.com/index.php), clicked a button and found my guy this year is St. Vitus.

I assumed there would be some sign that this was divinely inspired. However, I was disappointed to find I had no connection to what he is a patron—comedians, actors, entertainers, dancers, epileptics. However, when I arrived at the end of the list, I understood. St. Vitus is also the patron saint of oversleeping. Immediately, I felt a kinship. If he is also the patron saint of not hitting the snooze button, then we will have a long and fruitful relationship.

We are all aware of the more traditional saints and their causes. When we have yet again lost an item, who else but St. Anthony could save the day? To be kept safe while traveling, we turn to St. Christopher. Wayward children? St. Monica has been there, done that and will intercede for your brood, too.

With more than 10,000 saints recognized by the Catholic Church, there is literally a saint for every cause, activity, person, place or thing. While I loved to read about the more traditional lives of the saints when I was growing up, today I am fascinated by the saints of more obscure causes and their back stories.

Take St. Drogo, the patron saint of unattractive people, who was stricken with a disease that caused gross deformities. St. Gummarus was wed to a woman known for her abusive behavior, and is therefore regarded as the patron saint of difficult marriages. And St. Barbara, the patron saint of fireworks, is such because after her own father had her beheaded, he was immediately struck by lightning and killed.

Proving that it’s never too late for redemption, there are patron saints for arms dealers, murderers and repentant thieves. On the more random side, there is a saint against wasps, one to keep spelunkers safe and yet another who is both the patron saint for and against rain. (I’m not sure if he’s actually any help when you need a sunny day for your upcoming party).

All joking aside, I love stories about saints. Clearly, they are interesting. But what I love most about them is that they were once ordinary people like you and me. They were children, they were parents, they were laborers who dealt with everyday life while trying to answer God’s call to faithfulness. Albeit many met with unfortunate deaths—beheadings, crucifixions and at least one died by a swarm of wasps—they stand as Christian models for us to emulate.

As I researched saints, I came across the following: God is busy, so the Catholic Church has recruited patron saints to act as “receptionists” to sort through your requests. While I thought it funny at first, I rather like the idea of the saints helping God sort.

As you begin 2020, I hope you find the saint that will help God answer your prayers.

(Kimberly Pohovey is a member of St. Jude Parish in Indianapolis. She is the director of mission advancement for Archdiocesan Education Initiatives.)

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